The Poetry and Philosophy
A Handbook of Eight Lectures by
Edward Howard Griggs
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:4 At the midnight in the silence of the sleep-time,
When you set your fancies free,
Will they pass to where — by death, fools think, imprisoned —
Low he lies who once so loved you, whom you loved so,
Oh to love so, be so loved, yet so mistaken!
What had I on earth to do
With the slothful, with the mawkish, the unmanly?
Like the aimless, helpless, hopeless, did I drivel
— Being — who ?
One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better
Sleep to wake.
No, at noonday in the bustle of man's work-time
Greet the unseen with a cheer!
Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be,
'Strive and thrive!' cry 'Speed, — fight on, fare ever
There as here!'"
— Browning, Epilogue to Asolando.
Note: Spirit of the Course ...... 6
1. The Positive Message: Rabbi Ben Ezra .... 7
2. Music and the Spirit: Abt Vogler ..... 12
3. The Study of Personality: Andrea del Sarto . . .17
4. The Portrayal of Failure: Cleon 21
5. The Tragedy of the Pursuit of Knowledge: Paracelsus . 25
6. Browning's Philosophy of Art and Life: The Ring and the
Book . 30
7. The Crowning Revelation of Manhood: Caponsacchi . . 35
8. Browning's Interpretation of Womanhood: Pompilia . . 40
Suggestions to Students ...... 45
Book List 46
SPIRIT OF THE COURSE.
THE aim of this course is to give an introduction to the poetry
and philosophy of Browning through the careful study of a
few typical and especially lofty expressions of his genius.
The first half of the course will deal with four of Browning's repre-
sentative shorter poems, chosen as best expressing at once his inter-
pretation of human life and his characteristic poetic method, the
dramatic monologue. The second half of the course will deal with two
of his longer works which illustrate in widely different ways his char-
acteristics in thought and art. Of these, Paracelsus embodies the
youthful Browning, plunging into the deepest psychological and
moral problems, while The Ring and the Book, a dozen dramatic mono-
logues interpreting one theme, gives Browning's mature philosophy
of art and life and contains his highest presentation of exalted man-
hood and womanhood. An appreciation of these poems should give
such an understanding of Browning's essential attitude and character-
istic poetic form as to furnish a key to all else he has written.
Many of us can testify with deep gratitude to the unique influence
of Browning over us. We love him peculiarly, not only as a poet,
but because he has helped waken us to the deepest ends and meaning
of human life. To our age he is a great spiritual teacher, not of the
conventions of faith, but of that religion of personal life which the
world is beginning faintly to understand.
Prophet as he is with reference to modern life, expressing, not the
conceptions that come and go with the hour, but those great ideas
which come through the long unfolding of humanity, Browning
is not easily understood until we saturate ourselves with a few great
embodiments of his genius, and thus learn to read his poetry from
the point of view of his own spirit. When we are able to do this, Brown-
ing is rarely more difficult to read than the range and depth of problems
he attempts, necessitates. Instead of finding him obscure, we respond
with increasing exhilaration to the rapid movement and deep sugges-
tion of his thought , and to the strength, variety and harmonious adapta-
tion of his virile and often exquisite poetic form.
.» e . » -y
I. THE POSITIVE MESSAGE: RABBI BEN EZRA.
"Only a learner,
Quick one or slow one,
Just a discerner,
I would teach no one.
I am earth's native:
No rearranging it!
/ be creative,
Chopping and changing it?"
— Browning, Pisgah-Sights II, p. 205.*
"Then life is — to wake not sleep,
Rise and not rest, but press
From earth's level where blindly creep
Things perfected, more or less,
To the heaven's height, far and steep."
— Browning, Asolando, Reverie, p. 266.
Introduction. — The statement regarding Thoreau that it was his
misfortune to have had a brilliant enemy as a critic and a weak friend
as apologist. Application of this to the multitude of critics and apolo-
gists in the case of Browning. His misfortune that the subjective
and spiritual character of his poetry made it fall easily a prey to those
who cultivate the mysticism of intellectual laziness, dabbling in the
esoteric because unwilling to take the trouble to think clearly, imagin-
ing that obscure expression is depth of thought. Yet already the
froth of misguided adoration and prejudiced attack clearing away,
and a recognition growing that Browning is distinctly the most virile
and spiritually awakening mind in modern English literature.
Browning's alleged obscurity. — Reasons for the charge: (1) Intro-
spective interest of Browning; (2) Characteristic method; (3) Rapid
movement of thought; (4) Depth of thought and problem; (5) Absence
of explanation, and assumption of special knowledge. Thus necessary
* All references to Browning are to the Camberwell edition. See the Book List, p. 46.
to bring to the poem some knowledge of the subject it presents; to
get into sympathy with the spirit and movement of Browning's thought;
to grapple with the desp 'problems he studies. The question whether
there is still an element of unnecessary obscurity.
Method of trfe course. — The Value of the short dramatic monologues
written m tne period of Browning's full maturity in genius. These
poems as peculiarly excellent in both thought and form; as giving a
condensed statement of Browning's essential message; as the best
expressions of his characteristic poetic method; as more easily mastered
than the longer poems. Hence the value of these selected brief poems
as an introduction to Browning's poetry and philosophy. Place in
the work of Browning of the four to be discussed.
From these turn to two of the longer works. The place of Paracelsus
as revealing Browning's youth and presenting one range of his central
teaching. The Ring and the Book as his masterpiece among the longer
poems. Its significance as a multiplied dramatic monologue; as the
fullest statement of Browning's philosophy; as his most wonderful
presentation of transfigured human life.
What should result from the study of these portions of Browning's
The life of Browning (1812-1889). — Browning unlike most poets in
the character of his life. Everywhere affirmative, positive, yet in
true harmony with the noblest ideals. No apology needed in his
case: he lived his faith, in both personal and vocational life.
Unusual character of his childhood. Camberwell; family back-
ground; early tastes. Dedication to poetry from childhood.
Young manhood of Browning. Period of restlessness: its probable
significance in his life. First great work: Pauline, published at 21;
Paracelsus at 23. Great difference between the two. Significance of
the early struggle with deep problems. Compare Tennyson's work
at the same age.
Period of dramas. — Early association with actors and interest in the
stage. Character of Browning's dramas. Considerable measure of
public success with them.
Epoch of full maturity. — Browning's finding of himself and of the
true leading in his work. Turning away from the field in which he had
won some public response. Loss of his audience. Prejudice against
his work and attacks upon it. For twenty years Browning working
steadily on with little response beyond the limited circle of individual
admirers and friends.
Turn of the tide when Browning about fifty. Steady growth of
appreciation from that time onward. His position well established
at the time of his death in 1889.
Thus remarkable spectacle of this twenty years of straightforward,
undoubting work, in the face of misappreciation and abuse. One
main cause of Browning's attitude the deep personal relationship of
Browning's personal life. — Story of the love-affair with Elizabeth
Barrett. Unusual circumstances of the marriage. The ordinary
counsels, biological and prudential, under such circumstances. Yet
Browning's love and married life one of the few personal relationships
we are privileged to know about which help us to recognize the heights
that are attainable in the most wonderful aspect of human life.
The Browning letters. The life in Italy. Effect of his greatest
personal experience on Browning's poetry. Life and work after the
death of his wife.
Browning's supreme interest. — The study of soul development
through critical moments of experience. Browning's belief that a
man is proved by the crowning experience of his life. Hence the study
of these critical moments should throw light before and after and
reveal the meaning of his whole existence. Different types of moments
significant for different characters. Illustrate: Abt Vogler; Andrea
del Sarto; Cleon. /
Browning's poetic method. — The dramatic monologue the natural
vehicle for embodying Browning's interest in human life. Full matur-
ing of his poetry with his recognition and acceptance of this fact.
Compare Browning's interest and method with those of other poets:
^Eschylus, Dante, Goethe, Shakespeare. The soliloquies of Hamlet,
strung together without context, as an illustration of Browning's
typical work in content and form. Expression of Browning's char-
acteristic interest and method even in works more objectively dramatic :
Adaptation of form to content. — Browning too wise to plow fields
in white gloves. His aim, not to make monotonously musical verse,
but to give adequate and harmonious expression to his thoughts and
characters. Measure of his success in this. Variety of his poetic
forms in both music and imagery. His achievement at his best and
at his worst.
Personal element in Browning. — Browning not purely dramatic as
Shakespeare. While never wearing his heart on his sleeve, always
directly or indirectly expressing his essential attitude and faith. The
poet behind each of his characters.
Rabbi Ben Ezra. — This poem showing perhaps as well as any in all
Browning's work his essential message and characteristic method.
The historical Rabbi Ben Ezra: his work; his theory of immortality,
Situation of the poem.
Stanza-form in the poem. Type of music and imagery; adaptation
to the character.
The view of old age. Quick change in thought. Characteristics
of youth and value of its "divine discontent." Browning's thought
of life as a growth. Hence acceptance of pain and unfulfilled effort
and aspiration where life results. Glad recognition of the good mean-
ing in both body and spirit.
Return in stanza XIII to the initial thought of the poem: illustra-
tion of the movement of Browning's thought: compare deep conversa-
The view of age as a resting-point between two courses of action,
enabling one to gather up the meaning of the first before turning to
Rabbi Ben Ezra's faith in the eternity of life: is it Browning's?
Reasons for the assurance of immortality.
The new turn to the metaphor of the Potter's Wheel. Conception
of the relation of God and the soul. Again grounds for the faith.
The positive message. — Reasons for identifying Browning's view of
life essentially with that taken in the poem: (1) mood and spirit of
the whole; (2) obvious identification of poet and character; (3) out-
side evidence from other direct expressions of Browning's faith.
Browning's glad acceptance of human life: in youth and age; in
pain and joy; in body and spirit, since through all may be growth up
toward that image of God in which we are potentially made.
TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION.
1. How far are we justified in identifying Browning's personal
faith with the views given in Rabbi Ben Ezra?
2. Compare the view of old age in Rabbi Ben Ezra "with that given
in the first book of Plato's Republic.
3. Rabbi Ben Ezra's theory of immortality.
4. Browning's view of the life of the senses.
5. Why cannot life be judged by its results in work alone?
6. Compare Rabbi Ben Ezra and Tennyson's Ancient Sage.
7. What is the moral value of discontent?
8 The construction and value of the stanza-form in Rabbi Ben Ezra.
9. The sources of Browning's faith in God and immortality.
10. Compare Rabbi Ben Ezra's philosophy in the poem with Brown-
ing's expression of faith in Prospice, the Epilogue to Asolando,
the Reverie (in Asolando) and Im, Saisiaz.
See the suggestions to students, p. 45, and the general book list,
pp. 46-51. Books starred are of special value in connection with
this course; those double-starred are texts for study and discussion
or are otherwise of first importance.
Browning, **Rabbi Ben Ezra; **Epilogue to Asolando; **Prospice;
*Reverie (in Asolando); * La Saisiaz. Browning, R. and E. B., ^Letters.
Browning, E. B., Letters. Berdoe, Browning's Message to His Time,
pp. 1-70, 193-213. Brooke, The Poetry of Robert Browning, chapter I,
Browning and Tennyson. Bulkeley, The Reasonable Rhythm of Some
of Browning's Poems. Carpenter, The Religious Spirit in the Poets.
Chesterton, *Robert Browning. Corson, ^Introduction to Browning,
pp. 3-31, 72-98, 130-133. Dowden, *Robert Browning. Fothering-
ham, Studies of the Mind and Art of Browning. Gosse, Robert Browning.
Herford, Robert Browning. Mrs. Orr, Life and Letters of Robert Brown-
ing. Rolfe, Browning's Mastery of Rhyme, in Boston Browning Society
Papers, pp. 164-172. Royce, Browning's Theism, in Boston Browning
Society Papers, pp. 7-34. Sharp, Life of Browning. Symons, Intro-
duction to Browning. Waugh, Robert Browning.
II. MUSIC AND THE SPIRIT: ABT VOGLER.
"Music is the harmonious voice of creation; an echo of the invisible
world; one note of the divine concord which the entire universe is
destined one day to sound: — how can you hope to seize that note if
not by elevating your minds to the contemplation of the universe,
viewing with the eye of faith things invisible to the unbelieving, and
compassing the whole creation in your study and affection?"
— Joseph Mazzini, Life and Writings, volume IV, p. 8.
Introduction. — Abt Vogler, like Rabbi Ben Ezra, a poem giving a direct
statement of Browning's essential faith and also a typical expression
of his poetic method. Yet in Abt Vogler a further element: the philos-
ophy of music; and through the experience of the musical artist a
mystical, spiritual vision.
The value of the dramatic monologue in the expression of such a
spiritual faith and philosophy. The difference between a dogmatic
theory of life and an artistic presentation of how life looks from the
point of view of a certain height of experience. What the latter does
for us: (1) In our appreciation of human beings; (2) In our recognition
of the deep meaning of life; (3) In our hold upon the bases of faith.
The distinction between saying "this is true of life," and "life looks
so from this point of experience." Contrast wisdom and knowledge;
the truth of poetry and the truth of philosophy.
The historical Abt Vogler (1749-1814). — Early dedication to music
and the church. Original and virile mind and character. Range
of public success in several lands. Great pupils. Bitter enemies, who
regarded him as a charlatan. Work as musical composer, inventor,
Browning's interest in the forceful, path-making type of character.
Significance of his choice of Abt Vogler, instead of a more conventional
type of artist, to interpret experience in creative art.
Browning's own love of music. What it meant in his life. Hence
his preparation for the study in the poem.
Situation in the poem. — Abt Vogler presented in the moment just
after he has been extemporizing on the instrument of his own inven-
tion. This as illustrating the highest point in musical art, where the
artist who composes and the artist who executes are one, and the
creative energy flows out in instantaneous expression. Value for Brown-
ing's purpose of this bridging of the chasm between composition and
execution ordinarily present in music. Significance that the instrument
through which he finds expression is also the child of the artist's genius.
The moment that of perfect creating, where the impulse and thought
of the heart flow instantaneously forth in adequate and harmonious
form. Thus the situation of the poem indeed one of those critical
moments of experience in which a soul is tested and revealed, and
which Browning so delighted to study.
Browning's question: how does art and how does life appear from
the view-point of Abt Vogler's supreme experience? Browning's
belief that life is tested at high-water mark. Truth as revealed on.
the heights. The higher we climb, the truer is the perspective from
which life is seen. Hence the value of great experiences and of art as
an expression and interpretation of them. Illustrations from human
life and history of the truth of Browning's view.
Form of the poem. — Abt Vogler's soul vibrant with the most intense
emotion, he bursts into poetic expression. Adaptation of the long,
six-foot, eight-line stanza, with its predominance of dactylic feet, to
the mood of the poem. Organ-like roll in the strong music of the
poem. Alliteration as distinctly adding to this impression.
Imagery of the poem as equally adapted to the character and situa-
tion. Browning's reversal of the conventional comparison of archi-
tecture and music. Music as liquid architecture, the artist's thought
flowing out into the many-pinnacled temple of sound with no slow
process of time and labor existing as barrier between idea and execu-
tion. Abt Vogler's images all in dramatic truth to the character.
Stanzas I-III. — Abt Vogler's hunger that his wonderful achieve-
ment might last. Solomon's legendary magic no more marvelous in
its results than this temple of sound Abt Vogler has raised. His
wish that it might last as only a natural expression of that hunger for
permanence that is one of the two bottom desires of the human heart.
Stanzas IV, V. — Art creative like Nature, thus lifting us into har-
mony with her. Sense of cooperation of the universe with us in every
act of creation.
The power of music to lift us to a point of spiritual appreciation
where past and future seem real now. Contrast the standards of
time and space with the standards of the soul. Compare Goethe's
Dedication to Faust.
Stanzas VI, VII: the philosophy of music. — Abt Vogler's view of
the miracle in music. His statement of his own art from within, of
the other arts from without; thus giving the positive excellence 01
music, and the limitations of painting and poetry.
In music form sublimated: each sound created only to be annulled
the next instant by another. Through the succession of births and
deaths of the musical sounds the arousing of a series of emotional
states in the hearer. Thus music bridging more immediately than
the other arts the chasm between body and spirit. To explain how
the series of psychical states springs from the series of physical
forms would be to solve the riddle of the universe.
Transition to spiritual philosophy: stanzas VIII, IX. — With stanza
VII close of the first movement of the poem, concerned with the narra-
tion of Abt Vogler's experience. The remaining stanzas giving the
interpretation of the experience. Type of experience Abt Vogler repre-
sents; thus what music can symbolize.
No comfort to the musical extemporizer that other temples of sound
may be born as this that is gone was born. So no comfort to the
human heart that there may be a succession of experiences.
"Each Morn a thousand Roses b:.-gs, \gj say;
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?"
Hunger for the eternity of the particular experience.
But is the music gone? Compare the experience surviving in the
soul of the man. I am the net resultant of all my yesterdays. Thus
the temple of sound surviving in the soul of the artist; the wealth
of changing experience in the character of the man.
Leap from this fact to the belief in eternity. Browning not arguing
from desire to realization. The argument: as yesterday and to-day
are justified by their result in my unfolding life, so I may dare to trust
to-morrow. Worth of such an argument.
Stanzas X, XI: View of good and evil.— As only that which is posi-
tive, in harmony with the spiritual order of the universe, really lives
on, so evil is negation, "silence implying sound." Hence from the
point of view of the whole of life, possible to accept even the moral
darkness and shadows of life as we know it.
Splendid enthusiasm in this ringing song of Abt Vogler's faith.
Note: Browning does not say "these things are true"; but "life
looks this way from the point of spiritual vision Abt Vogler lias reached
through his creative art." The underlying question: dare we trust
such a vision, or is it a cheating illusion, while the prosaic sand-wastes
we plod over after descending from the mountain are the truth of life?
Browning's unhesitating and emphatic answer to this question. Note:
not necessary that we should be able to prove or disprove; but im-
portant that we should know what we may dare to believe as the
basis of our lives. A kind of heroism demanded in faith: we must
dare to cling to what we have seen in our highest experiences, and to
brave life as if the loftiest that has come to us were true.
Stanza XII: Conclusion. — Descent to the common chord, the C-
major of this life. Impossible to remain upon the peak of vision.
Every mountain means at least two valleys. In every life moments
of supreme vision; in every life dead areas of commonplace. Great
living the carrying of the vision of the mountain across the sand-
wastes and into even the valley of the shadow in the assurance that if
we do so faithfully the mountains will appear in the distance, and by
and by the vision — a new vision — will come again.
TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION.
1. What is the significance of Browning's love of unusual char-
acters and subjects?
2. The historic Abt Vogler.
3. The metrical structure in Abt Vogler. Compare that in Rabbi
4. The imagery in Abt Vogler. Compare that in Rabbi Ben Ezra.
5. The significance of the dramatic moment chosen to interpret
6. Is Abt Vogler just to painting and poetry?
7. Why has music so important a religious function?
8. What gives music its superiority to the other arts in expressing
9. What is the reason for choosing the experience of the musician
as a vehicle for interpreting the highest spiritual life?
10. What ground is there for believing that "there shall never be
one lost good"?
11. What advantage has the poetical expression of Browning's
faith in Abt Vogler over a dogmatic statement of the same
view of life?
12. Compare Abt Vogler and Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha.
13. Compare Abt Vogler and With Charles Avison in Parleyings
with Certain People.
Browning, **Abt Vogler; ** Said; *M 'aster Hugues of Saxe-Gotha;
*A Toccata of Galuppi's; *With Charles Avison in Parleyings with
Certain People. Beale, The Religious Teaching of Browning. Berdoe,
* Browning and the Christian Faith. Brooke, *The Poetry of Brown-
ing, chapter V. Corson, Introduction to Browning, pp. 122-126. Daw-
son, Makers of Modern English, chapters XXVI-XXIX. Fothering-
ham, Studies of the Mind and Art of Browning, chapter XVII. Jones,
Browning as a Philosophical and Religious Teacher. Mazzini, Life
and Writings, volume IV, pp. 1-55, *The Philosophy of Music. Orme-
rod, *Abt Vogler, the Man; *Some Notes on Browning's Poems Re-
ferring to Music. Pigou Browning as a Religious Teacher. Mrs.
Turnbull, Abt Vogler.
in. THE STUDY OF PERSONALITY: ANDREA
"My stress lay on the incidents in the development of a soul: little
else is worth study. I, at least, always thought so — you, with many
known and unknown to me, think so, — others may one day think so."
— Browning, in letter to J. Milsand, prefatory to SordeUo.
Introduction. — Andrea del Sarto widely different from the two pre-
ceding studies: there a direct expression of Browning's faith and
attitude through the medium of two great historical characters; here
the study of a subtle personality widely different from Browning in
fundamental reaction on life. No question as to Browning's own
attitude toward the problems presented in Andrea del Sarto; but a
further aspect of his work — the study of personality. Wide range of
Browning's poems in which this is the dominant interest. Andrea
del Sarto one of the greatest of these.
A further interest in Andrea del Sarto in the study of the historical
character. Yet even if it were decided that Browning failed in the
interpretation of the Florentine painter, the main value of the poem
as a study of human character and the main truth to the problems
of personal life remaining.
The historical Andrea del Sarto (1487-1531). — Andrea living just in
the crowning period of the Florentine renaissance: contemporaneous
with Michael Angelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. Great interest
to the students of art in Andrea's work through its technical excellence
and the marvelous ease of Andrea's execution. In drawing, group-
ing, color, light and shadow, Andrea a master for subsequent artists.
Vasari's story. — Our chief knowledge of Andrea coming from Vasari's
Life. Question as to the truth of Vasari's statements. Story of
the youthful painter. His questionable marriage. The one flight.
Return to Florence at Lucrezia's demand. Subsequent dishonor.
Hack work. Vasari's pathetic account of Andrea's death.
Tendency to question Vasari's account to-day. Yet, as a pupil of
Andrea's, Vasari should have known the facts; and his story should
be accepted unless we believe him guilty of deliberate falsifying. The
poem following strictly Vasari's account.
Andrea's paintings. — Andrea's work chiefly in Florence. Great
beauty in all his paintings: one's first impression from them that
Browning's interpretation of the character is wrong. Yet, as our
study proceeds, a more and more perplexing question. In spite of
beauty, ease of execution, soft mingling of light and shade, some-
thing elusive in all Andrea's work. Compare his Madonna of the
Harpies, Young St. John, Deposition from the Cross. Moods which he
could interpret. Crowning expression in his Last Supper at San Salvi.
Self-revelation in his portraits.
Suggestion in all Andrea's work of something greater unattained.
Sense in which his reach did exceed his grasp. Thus failure from the
point of view of his own unattained ideal, in spite of the great work
he really achieved. Substantial truth therefore of the poem to the
historical character; only, the poem must be read in the light of the
remarkable work Andrea accomplished.
Situation of the poem. — Evening: the twilight drawing down;
Andrea in his Florentine studio, looking out of the window at Fiesole
and Mount Morello: speaking half to himself, half to the wife who
sits condescendingly beside him. Thus the moment chosen one of
quiet, half-sad meditation, when Andrea's life lies clear in perspective
and he can sum up to himself its meaning. The poem one of the best
illustrations of the revelation of a character through a critical moment
of experience by means of the dramatic monologue.
Verse form and imagery. — Wonderful delicacy of the music in the
blank verse of the poem, expressing the moan of a heart whose de-
spair is hopeless. Evidence of Browning's mastery of exquisite ex-
pression when he chose to use it.
Type of images used in the poem; adaptation to the character.
Contrast the imagery of Rabbi Ben Ezra and Abt Vogler. Thus again
evidence of the true dramatic power of Browning, in identifying him-
self with the spirit of his character and clothing the latter in ap-
The interpretative mood. — Variety of moods in Andrea's life; but
the one recurring beneath all the rest and revealing the real heart of
his life. This as the mood of the poem.
Husband and wife. — Andrea's sensitive appreciation of Lucrezia's
beauty; yearning for some response to his love for her, but accepting
quietly the fact that (here is no answer. Timidly pleading that she
sit by him through the evening hour; grateful that she does so without
too great restlessness. Holding her bodily presence for the moment;
and recognizing that there is no way he can hold her thought and
How such a woman can attract such a man and hold him tangled
in the charm of her irresponsive sensuousness. The pity of it!
Andrea's view of life. — How philosophy and conduct mold each
other. One's view of life simply the horizon of one's own world of
action. Thus Andrea believes in blind fate, because his will has broken
against obstacles he could not surmount. Measure of truth and of
mistake, therefore, in his view of the world and of his own life.
Andrea's despair. — In this quiet hour Andrea's return to the broken
dream. All the old desire surging back upon him, with a crushing
sense of the impossibility of its fulfillment. Thus quiet despair. This
as so much deeper than the despair that cries out passionately. Thus
Andrea: the wild bird rises once more to beat its breast against the
inexorable bars of the cage; then, fresh- wounded, droops hopeless
on the floor.
In the pathetic intimacy of this evening hour Andrea's revelation
to his wife of the one great compliment he had received — Michael
Angelo's word he had cherished all these years as the symbol of what
he might have been. Lucrezia's obliviousness, asking a moment
later whose word! Gush of feeling to Andrea's lips and eyes; repres-
sion; despair again. And then the Cousin's whistle!
The one more chance Andrea craves. Recognition that it is im-
possible. Acceptance of fate — fate now, but which his will is responsible
for. Mood with which the poem closes.
The poem and the painter. — Wonderful revelation of the deep things
of human life in this subtle study of personality; yet also substantial
truth to the historical character. Leaving the gossipy tradition aside,
the Andrea of the poem the man who painted the pictures that hang
in Florence. The sensitive spirit, delicately responsive to every appeal
from the sensuous world, but lacking the firm center of masculine
self-control and self-direction, as the background from which spring
those subtle, beautiful, elusive paintings that perplex us in the galleries
Browning and Andrea. — How an artist can interpret his dramatic
counterpart — the type that embodies the weakness of his own strength.
So Browning and Andrea: contrast the two marriages; the life in
Casa Guidi and the picture hanging in the Pitti Palace opposite —
the picture Browning wrote his poem to describe.
Browning's view of Andrea's tragedy. Causes of the tragedy.
Was it inevitable? Suggestion by dramatic irony of what the life of
love and the life of "work should be.
TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION.
1. Compare the verse-form in Andrea del Sarto with that in Rabbi
Ben Ezra and Abt Vogler.
2. Compare the imagery in Andrea del Sarto with that in Rabbi
Ben Ezra and Abt Vogler.
3. Has Browning succeeded in giving a true interpretation of the
historical Andrea del Sarto?
4. Compare the relative values of the study of personal life and
the interpretation of a historical character in Andrea del
5. Compare Andrea del Sarto and Tennyson's Romney's Remorse.
6. The causes of Andrea del Sarto 's failure.
7. Compare Andrea del Sarto with other poems of Browning dealing
with the renaissance, as Fra Lippo Lippi and The Bishop
Orders His Tomb.
8. Contrast the study of personal life in Andrea del Sarto and in
9. Compare the view of personal life given in Andrea del Sarto and
in Any Wife to Any Husband.
10. Contrast Browning's personal experience with that of Andrea
11. Can Browning's own philosophy of personal life be discovered
in Andrea del Sarto?
Browning, ** Andrea del Sarto; **Fra Lippo Lippi; *The Bishop
Orders His Tomb; *Pictor Ignotus; *James Lee's Wife; *A Woman's
Last Word; *Any Wife to Any Husband; *A Forgiveness. Brooke,
Poetry of Browning, chapter V, *The Poet of Art. Burton, Literary
Likings, pp. 150-171, Renaissance Pictures in Browning's Poetry.
Corson, * Introduction to Browning, pp. 32-71, 113-116. Fleming,
Andrea del Sarto. Fotheringham, Studies of the Mind and Art of
Browning, chapter XV. Grant, Browning's Art in Monologue, in
Boston Browning Society Papers, pp. 35-06. Ormerod, Andrea del
Sarto and Abt Vogler. Tennyson, *Romney t 8 Remorse. Vasari,
Lives of the Painters, volume IV, pp. 169-202, *Andrea del Sarto.
Whitman, Browning in Relation to Painting.
IV. THE PORTRAYAL OF FAILURE: CLEON.
"For it is with this world, as starting-point and basis alike, that
we shall always have to concern ourselves: the world is not to be
learned and thrown aside, but reverted to and relearned. The spiritual
comprehension may be infinitely subtilized, but the raw material
it operates upon must remain. There may be no end of the poets who
communicate to us what they see in an object with reference to their
own individuality; what it was before they saw it, in reference to the
aggregate human mind, will be as desirable to know as ever."
— Browning, Essay on Shelley, p. 285.
"Why stay we on the earth unless to grow?"
— Browning, Cleon, p. 84.
Introduction. — A further type of dramatic monologue in Cleon:
the primary interest a study of failure on the basis of what Brown-
ing considers a false philosophy of life. In Andrea del Sarto failure
in personal life, in love and work. Cleon rich, honored, successful,
the friend of princes and chief artist of his time, yet the rose of life
dust and ashes in his hands.
Cleon an imaginary character typifying the epoch of decadent Greek
culture. Thus interest in Browning's interpretation of the epoch
as well as in his study of the significance for any time of Cleon 's philos-
ophy of life.
Browning's own faith opposite to that of Cleon; thus suggested by
dramatic irony in the poem. Yet Browning's essential attitude as
evident through the indirect expression in Cleon as in its affirmative
embodiment in Rabbi Ben Ezra and Abt Vogler.
Character and epoch of Cleon. — Instructive character of the declin-
ing Greek world. Refinement of culture following upon virility of
manhood. Interest transferred from public to private life. Diffi-
culty in life and faith in such an age. Resemblance between the
epoch of Cleon and our own.
Cleon a perfect type of his age. A finished artist in many fields;
poet, philosopher, with a delicate sensitiveness to the world of sensuous
appeal as great as that of Andrea del Sarto; but honored and success-
ful, with a wide relation to the world.
Form of the poem. — Exquisiteness of the music and imagery of the
poem, thus expressive of Cleon 's spirit. Perfect adaptation of form
to content. Browning's use of recurring images to unify the poem and
give atmosphere. How the spirit of the whole is revealed in the
music and imagery of the opening lines.
Situation of the poem. — Interesting variation of the dramatic mono-
logue. Cleon, having just received a letter accompanied by a wealth
of gifts from his friend Protus, one of the petty Greek tyrants, sits
down to write his thanks and answer the king's questions. Thus the
poem is Cleon 's letter.
Compare the interpretative moment chosen to reveal the character
in Rabbi Ben Ezra, Abt Vogler, and Andrea del Sarto with that selected
here. The king's question: "Life fails for me, are you who see and
paint life happy?"; and in rising to answer this tragic question Cleon
revealing the meaning of his character and experience.
Cleon's view of life. — Dramatic irony in the quotation prefixed to
the poem. Even among the Greeks, Browning thinks, a conception
that might have solved Cleon's perplexity.
Cleon's view of joy as the use and end of life; yet not vulgar joy.
The refined epicureanism that seeks some loftier happiness than the
mere satisfaction of brute instincts. Revelation of Cleon's vibrant
response to every appeal from the world of sensuous beauty in his de-
scription of the "one lyric woman."
The letter's first question. — Cleon's pride in the wonderful range of
his accomplishment. Yet haunting sense of failure in it all. His
life overshadowed by the simple great of old. His effort to find com-
fort in the variety of his achievements and the many-sidedness of his
culture. Tendency to this pseudo-originality in every late age. The
true relation to history. Impossible to know too much of the past;
but possible to know a great deal and be incapable of vigorous action
in the present; thus to have life overshadowed by great yesterdays
and to seek novelty for originality. The true value of the past as
inspiration for the present.
Cleon's failure to see this. Contrast Browning's own view. Cleon's
hunger for progress, yet despair within. Causes of his attitude.
The second question. — With honor, fame and works that will live
behind him is Cleon happy? Cleon's pathetic- answer.
Self-consciousness as the peculiar mark of man. Does it mean
progress beyond the life of the brute? Growth of a world of desire
with the conscious life, yet power to answer desire through the senses
as under rigid limitations which grow more narrow through the very
effort for culture that brings to birth the wider desires. The image
of the Naiad. Contrast the view taken of discontent and struggle in
Rabbi Ben Ezra. Compare Emerson's Sphinx.
Hence Cleon's blind problem and his deepening despair. The
point of view from which there may be an answer to his problem;
but Cleon struggling within a closed circle and unable to break through
it to a higher circle of ideas.
The joy-hunger. — Intensity of Cleon's desire for what seems to him
life. The folly of trying to satisfy it by promising an immortality
in works one leaves behind. Compare Hamlet's bitter statement
Cleon's expression of the characteristic Greek view of old age and
death. Contrast Rabbi Ben Ezra's view. Causes for the difference
in attitude. Unquestioning rejection of all hope of immortality by
Cleon: reasons for his despair.
Paul's preaching. — Cleon's patronizing attitude toward the " bar-
barian Jew." His assurance that "our philosophy" is the only en-
lightened view. Yet St. Paul's preaching as emphasizing the very
conceptions which would have solved Cleon's bitter problem and
transformed his despair into strong, hopeful life. Thus the dramatic
irony of the poem and the suggestion by indirection of Browning's
own view of life.
Ethical value of the poem. — Significance of the poem as contrasted
with a philosophical argument against the epicurean philosophy.
Value in presenting the philosophy in the life with which it naturally
clothes itself. Every creed tested finally by the fruit it brings forth
in life. Hence the trenchant significance of Browning's arraignment
of a merely hedonistic philosophy of life through his portrayal of the
failure of Cleon.
Contrast in value such a dramatic monologue as Cleon with the poems
that are merely subtle presentations of personality.
The vigor of Browning's message. Cleon's age resembling ours.
The many who are caught in Cleon's dark riddle to-day. The splendid
affirmation of the worth of life in Browning. His glad acceptance, not
only of joy but pain, not only of peace but restless discontent, since
to him life means endless growth in life. Tonic value of his teaching
for such an age as ours.
TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION.
1. The value of Browning's Cleon as compared with a philosophical
argument against epicureanism.
2. Browning's view of Christianity as implied in Cleon.
3. Contrast true originality with Cleon 's view of originality.
4. The causes of Cleon 's despair.
5. If faith in immortality be lost, is there any answer to Cleon's
6. The quality and music of the verse in Cleon. Compare in Rabbi
Ben Ezra, Abt Vogler and Andrea del Sarto.
7. The imagery in Cleon. Compare that in Rabbi Ben Ezra, Abt
Vogler and Andrea del Sarto.
8. Browning's use of the "tower" image.
9. Compare Cleon and Rabbi Ben Ezra in the view taken of human
10. Compare the view of old age in Cleon and Rabbi Ben Ezra. What
causes the difference?
11. How can Browning's philosophy of life be discovered in Cleon?
12. The type of classical interest in Browning.
13. Browning's interpretation of Greece: compare Cleon with
Balaustion's Adventure and Aristophanes' Apology.
Browning, **Cleon; * Balaustion's Adventure; * Aristophanes' Apology;
*A Death in the Desert. The Bible, *Acts, chapter XVII. Bradford,
Spiritual Lessons from the Brownings. Brooke, Poetry of Browning,
chapters XI, XII, imaginative Representation. Bury, Browning's
Philosophy. Hyde, Art of Optimism as Taught by Browning. Jones,
Browning as a Philosophical and Religious Teacher. Nettleship,
* Robert Browning, pp. 326-338. Pigou, Browning as a Religious
V. THE TRAGEDY OF THE PURSUIT OF KNOWL-
"We turn with stronger needs to the genius of an opposite tendency
— the subjective poet of modern classification. He, gifted like the
objective poet, with the fuller perception of nature and man, is im-
pelled to embody the thing he perceives, not so much with reference
to the many below as to the One above him, the supreme Intelligence
which apprehends all things in their absolute truth, — an ultimate
view ever aspired to, if but partially attained, by the poet's own soul.
Not what man sees, but what God sees, — the Ideas of Plato, seeds of
creation lying burningly on the Divine Hand, — it is toward these that
he struggles. Not with the combination of humanity in action, but
with the primal elements of humanity, he has to do; and he digs
where he stands, — preferring to seek them in his own soul as the nearest
reflex of that absolute Mind, according to the intuitions of which he
desires to perceive and speak. Such a poet does not deal habitually
with the picturesque groupings and tempestuous tossings of the forest
trees, but with their roots and fibres naked to the chalk and stone.
He does not paint pictures and hang them on the walls, but rather
carries them on the retina of his own eyes: we must look deep into
his human eyes, to see those pictures on them. He is rather a seer,
accordingly, than a fashioner, and what he produces will be less a
work than an effluence. That effluence cannot be easily considered
in abstraction from his personality, — being indeed the very radiance
and aroma of his personality, projected from it but not separated.
Therefore, in our approach to the poetry, we necessarily approach
the personality of the poet; in apprehending it we apprehend him,
and certainly we cannot love it without loving him. Both for love's
and for understanding's sake we desire to know him, and, as readers
of his poetry, must be readers of his biography also."
— Browning, Essay on Shelley, pp. 283, 284.
Introduction. — The brief poems of Browning's mature manhood as
the most characteristic expression of his genius in both thought and
form. Return from these to the period of Browning's youth and to
the work which was prophetic of all he was to accomplish.
Thus Paracelsus, published when Browning was 23, of great interest
in connection with his development. Distinctly a young man's poem,
with the restlessness, vast ambitions and youthful sense of failure
that so often mark adolescent genius; yet treating deep ethical and
psychological problems with remarkable insight into human life.
Interesting how many of Browning's central teachings find expression
in this first great poem.
Further, Paracelsus interpreting a remarkable epoch of human life,
and as a poem characterized by great beauty in its highest portions.
Thus variety of points of view from which the poem may be studied.
The historical Paracelsus (1493?- 1541). — The Paracelsus who lived
in the early sixteenth century a man of remarkable and original genius.
Breaking away from his early conventional studies; dedicating him-
self to the study (1) Of empirical science, not through books, but
through direct investigation in chemistry and medicine; (2) Of all
phases of human life; (3) Of mystical philosophy. Significance of
the combination of his interests: compare Giordano Bruno. Much
of his teaching since proved erroneous, yet many ideas and discoveries
of permanent value. In the sixteenth century still possible to believe
in the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life. Hence superstitions
of Paracelsus and seeming traits of the charlatan. Yet sincerity ot
Paracelsus. A pathmaker, bitterly contemptuous toward established
learning, naturally violently opposed by conventional teachers. His
wide travels and varied contact with human life. Circumstances of
his death at Salzburg in 1541. Value of his mystical philosophy and
range of his real contribution. His relation to the scientific and
theological upheaval in the time of Erasmus and Luther.
The poem in relation to the history. — Attraction to Browning in such
a character as Paracelsus; attacked as charlatan but aspiring out and
beyond mankind. Significance that Browning chose Paracelsus as
the subject of his first great work. Compare the first scenes of Faust
written before Goethe was 25. The youth of genius as expressed in
Truth of the poem to the historical Paracelsus. Browning's claim:
how far justified. Vitality of his interpretation of the epoch, what-
ever be the verdict regarding his rendering of the historical character.
Form of the poem. — Paracelsus really five dramatic monologues,
with the interjection of a few questions, suggestions and comments
by the friends ot* the chief character. The dramatic monologue here
brought less strictly within true artistic limits than in the great poems
of Browning's middle period. Yet vigor of his use of it and char-
acteristic expression of his interest in human life.
Beauty and freedom of the blank verse. The number of passages of
unusual excellence. The larger amount of nature description than in
Browning's later work. Exquisiteness of the inserted lyrics; how
they show Shelley's influence. The highest passages of Paracelsus
as rising in poetic beauty to the level of Browning's best work.
Scene I. — Wiirzburg, 1512; Paracelsus, 19. His farewell to his
friends, Festus and Michal (wife of Festus), before his departure on
his wandering travels. His discontent with the university work;
aspiration toward a more real and universal knowledge. His sense
that it would be death to live the commonplace life — even of learn-
ing. This attitude as marking the youth of genius. Good and evil
in it: compare in Faust, Goethe, Browning.
Friendship with Festus. — Relation of the two young men to each
other. Remonstrances of Festus and Michal, yet faith in their friend
and in his vast dreams. Measure of dramatic reality in Festus and
The aim of Paracelsus. — Vagueness of the aspirations of Paracelsus,
yet centering on the hunger to know. Compare Faust's desire. Danger
in the pride that seeks to be apart and above mankind.
Why Paracelsus turns to a life of wandering in order to fulfil his
aim. Compare the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow — the notion
that somewhere else is all that we desire. "Wo du nicht bist, dort
ist das Gliick! " This notion as always characteristic of youth. Pathos
in its expression in Paracelsus; yet deeper significance.
Relation of the aspiration of Paracelsus to mankind. Essential
purity and loftiness of his aim; yet a certain arrogance. Distinction
between working for the adventitious applause of the world and desir-
ing the warm human response. How the intellect isolates while the
heart unites. Hence loneliness of Paracelsus; compare Leonardo
da Vinci and Giordano Bruno.
The theory of Paracelsus that truth is within ourselves: is it Brown-
ing's? Measure of truth and error in the conception; its relation to
the character of Paracelsus.
Scene I as a remarkable expression of the enthusiasms and ambi-
tions of the youth of genius.
Scene II. — Paracelsus, after nine years of wandering, at the house
of a Greek fortune-teller in Constantinople, writing out the disappoint-
ing story of his life. Dramatic irony in the title "Paracelsus attains."
Paracelsus wakening not only to a sense of failure, but to a recognition
of the forfeiting of the joys of common human life which the vain
pursuit of his aim has involved. Compare St. Francis of Assisi; Cleon;
Faust in scene I.
Aprile. — Meeting with the dying poet. Aprile failing in seeking
to love infinitely, as Paracelsus to know infinitely. In both not only
the opposition between love and knowledge, but a striving for the
whole of the aspect sought, while neglecting the slow, step-by-step
process through which either is attained. Compare the failure of
Arniel. Yet to recognize the nature and meaning of one's failure,
as Paracelsus partially does, after all, attainment.
Scene III: apparent success. — Festus visiting his friend at Basile
fourteen years after scene I. Paracelsus famous and with hosts of
followers in the university, where he has been appointed to a professor-
ship. Yet applauded for what he considers his weakness and failure,
while his real aims remain as unrecognized as unattained. Bitterness
in such a situation. How the world unconsciously spoils a leader by
compelling him to dwell in the adventitious.
Paracelsus's confession of himself to Festus; relief in such a self-
revelation. Hunger of Paracelsus that his friend may see through
the vanity of his success to his inner degradation and despair, that is,
Scathing arraignment of the popular teacher's audience. How they
tempt him to charlatanry. Compare Mr. Sludge, "the Medium."
Yet the truth regarding his audience Paracelsus fails to see.
Scene III as the tragedy of a leader's sufferings. Beautiful poetry
into which the scene rises toward its close.
Scene IV. — Dismissal of Paracelsus because he chose to speak the
truth instead of giving his audience the pretense they desired. Deeply
wounded, Paracelsus expressing his despair in a wild flame of laughter,
enthusiasm, contempt. Like Faust reacting against the failure of
the intellect to what seems most real — the uncontrolled life of the
senses. Significance that Browning, like Goethe, wrote this study of
restless reaction so early.
Impossibility of returning to lost youth and the forfeited oppor-
tunities of the common life. Michal's death the last touch to the
despair of Paracelsus.
Scene V. — Festus with his dying friend, 29 years since the first scene.
How splendidly Festus rises in this last scene. Value in human life
of such an unequal friendship.
Wonderful revelation of Paracelsus's life and experience in the
broken wanderings of his dying brain. His sincerity through all,
hence reality of his character.
Paracelsus's attainment.— Pride suppressed at last. Now, at the
end, achievement of conceptions that make all life lie clear in the
perspective of the dying hour. Ideas that make up Paracelsus's
attainment: (1) At last, conception of Cod, of unity in all life, and
of the relation of man to Cod. (2) Recognition of the nature and
meaning <>f human life, its Btrength and weakness. (3) Conception
of the relal ion of man to nature, and of man to his fellows in the solidar-
2 s ;
ity of mankind. (4) Conception of the relation of a leader to his
followers, and appreciation of the higher truth of common life. (5)
Lastly, recognition by Paracelsus of the reasons for his own failure.
Significance of such an attainment. The range of Browning's
central teachings expressed in it. Marvelous rising of the poem toward
Value of the poem. — Paracelsus as a work of art: chief merits and
faults. Value of the poem as an interpretation of an epoch; as a
study of great and permanent problems; as an expression of the char-
acter and development of the poet who gave it birth in his youth.
TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION.
1. In what ways is Paracelsus typical of Browning's greatest work?
2. What are the chief faults of the monologue in Paracelsus?
3. The treatment of friendship in Paracelsus.
4. The relative value of the lyrics in Paracelsus.
5. Browning's character-drawing in Paracelsus.
6. Compare Paracelsus and Faust.
7. Contrast the treatment of Nature in Paracelsus and in Goethe's
Sorrows of Werther.
8. Compare Pauline and Paracelsus.
9. In what does the central interest of Paracelsus lie: in the study
of personality, the interpretation of an epoch, or the presenta-
tion of a great ethical problem?
10. Compare Paracelsus with Tennyson's early work.
11. Compare the problem of Paracelsus with that presented in
12. Why is Paracelsus so much easier to read than Sordello?
13. Contrast Browning's poetic method in Paracelsus and in Pippa
Passes: which produces the higher result?
14. Compare in artistic effectiveness Paracelsus and the poems
Browning, **Paracelsus; *Pippa Passes; *Sordello; *Pauline,
Berdoe, Browning's Message to His Time, pp. 145-192, *Paracelsus:
The Reformer of Medicine. Brooke, Poetry of Browning, chapter IV,
pp. 115-140. Buck, Browning's Paracelsus and Other Essays, pp.
13-60. Chesterton, ^Robert Browning. Dowden, Robert Browning,
chapter II. Fotheringham, Studies of the Mind and Art of Browning,
chapter V. Royce, The Problem of Paracelsus, Boston Browning
Society Papers, pp. 221-248.
VL BROWNING'S PHILOSOPHY OF ART AND
LIFE: THE RING AND THE BOOK.
"Lean one lesson hence
Of many which whatever lives should teach:
This lesson, that our human speech is naught,
Our human testimony false, our fame
And human estimation words and wind.
Why take the artistic way to prove so much?
Because, it is the glory and good of Art.
That Art remains the one way possible
Of speaking truth, to mouths like mine at least.
Art. — wherein man nowise speaks to men.
Only to mankind, — Art may tell B truth
Obliquely, do the thing shall breed the thought.
Nor wrong the thought, missing the mediate word.
So may you paint your picture, twice show truth.
Beyond mere imagery on the wall. —
So. note by note, bring music from your mind,
Deeper than ever e'en Beethoven dived. —
So write a book shall mean beyond the facts.
Suffice the eye and save the soul beside."
— The Ring and the Book, volume II. p. 329.
Introduction. — The Ring and the Book Browning's longest poem and
in some respects his masterpiece. Composition in the culminating
period of his work, thus representing his ripest thought and fullest
poetic power. Though so long a poem, true to Browning's char-
acteristic poetic method, the dramatic monologue. The Ring and
the Book a scries of dramatic monologues centering upon one theme.
Thus each portion of the poem fulfilling the functions of the brief
dramatic monologues: yet in The Ring and the Book further: (1) The
study of the reaction of the different characters upon each other; (2) The
study of one series of events in relation to a group of individuals.
Thus a much broader weaving of the web of human life than in the
shorter poems. Not only the study of the same critical moment in
the lives of the different individuals, but the working out of all the
complicated action and reaction of these upon each other. Thus
The Ring and the Book the best opportunity to study Browning's
philosophy of art and life.
Subject of The Ring and the Book. — The Roman murder case of
1698: such a story as the modern sensational newspaper would exploit
to the debauching of its readers. Browning's finding of the book,
part print, part manuscript, relating to the trial. The story in brief.
This as the story retold, from his own point of view, by each of the
speakers and actors in the poem.
Truth versus fact. — The painful story of the murder case not only
a basis for pernicious gossip, but material through which one may
see reverently into human life. The book as containing:
"Pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since."
Distinction between facts and truth. Facts the material through
which truth may be discovered. How facts may lie. The greatest
test of the intellect, and one of the greatest of the character, the ability
to see what facts mean. The meaning of any expression of a human
life evident only in true relation to the whole life embodied. Thus
the evil of gossip that it paws over the external expressions of char-
acter utterly out of relation to the life clothed in them.
Thus Browning's view of truth in relation to life. We see the world
from the point of our own experience and character. For man truth
relative; no view absolute. Hence the vision dependent upon char-
acter: to see truth one must be true. The reaction of an individual
upon any series of events a test and revelation of his character. Other
factors entering into the appreciation of truth, but this of the life
the basal one. Compare the people who always ring true; who,
brought into the presence of a new range of facts, pierce unerringly
through them to what they half-conceal and half-reveal. Such people
found perhaps as often among those unlearned as among those widely
read in the teaching of the past, though all sincere contact with life
helps cultivate such insight.
The Ring and the Book as the application of this principle to a variety
of characters, testing and revealing each by his reaction on the central
Browning's theory of art. — His view of truth in relation to fact as
determining Browning's philosophy of art. Because presenting truth
in relation to personality, in all the color and form of life, art able to
reveal the truth as is possible to no prosaic statement of fact in science
or of theory in philosophy. Thus the lofty function of art: never
merely to give pleasure (though that were enough) , but to breed wis-
dom — the insight into concrete experience — to "save the soul." Brown-
ing's unvarying recognition of this high function of art as a way of
life. Fullest statement of his thought in The Ring and the Book. As
God created the world, so art, using the elements of God's work, creates
its world, and in so doing reveals the truth of God's world.
Hence the image of the poem: the goldsmith takes the pure gold of
the mine, mixes alloy to work it, molds it into the ring and then dissipates
the alloy. There remains pure gold, but more than gold — a ring,
to carry human sentiment and seal a marriage. So Browning, taking
the "pure crude fact" of this Roman murder story, brooding over
it and mixing his soul with it, moulding it into the poem, leaves it
gold, but gold shapen into the ring, fact, but fact interpreted, its truth
How this process tests the poet's own soul. For him too the vision
determined by the moral reality of his character. He too can see
truth only as he is true. Thus revelation of Browning, and of his
character and life, in and behind all the figures of the poem.
The first Half-Rome. — Application to the characters of the poem
of the theory of truth in relation to fact. The story culminating in
the murder dropped like a stone into the midst of the pond of public
opinion and its waves rolling either way. Thus the speaker for half-
Rome a married man, suspicious and jealous of his wife. He naturally
sides with the husband; reacts instantly on the situation from the
basis of his own experience. Thus half the world chooses a side, not
because that side is or is not the truth, but because through tempera-
ment, circumstances, accident, half the world naturally tends that way.
The other Half- Rome. — Equally accidental the reaction of the other
half of the world. The speaker for this half an unmarried sentimental-
ist, inclining temperamentally to the woman's side of the story. No
real appreciation of Pompilia; in fact admitting what, if true, would
spoil the beauty of her character. Thus this speaker and the half-
Rome he represents accidentally on the side that happens to have
the truth, but without real recognition of the truth.
Tertium Quid. — Always when the world's opinion falls into two
halves, something left over: the reaction of the third somewhat, the
idle rich who regard themselves as aristocracy, too fine to take sides
in the quarrels of the vulgar world. The veneer of convention separat-
ing these people from the realities of human life. Their false notion
that a polite cyniciam toward love and work is a mark of their superior
culture. A whole literature cursed with this damning tendency.
The view of these who regard themselves as the fashionable clique
further from the truth than that of either half of common opinion.
Yet Caponsacchi one of the Tertium Quid. The power of nature's
gentleman, once awakened, to go beyond the man of other type.
Guido Franceschini. — Browning passing next from the world's
reaction to the central characters in the tragic drama. Guido the
criminal. Compare with him Goethe's Mephistopheles and Shake-
speare's Iago. Guido 's nature mere hate and malice. As he is utterly
false, so no perception of truth. His view of life mere loathsome
falsehood. Of all the characters of the poem, his darkness the farthest
from the light of God's truth.
Machine-made truth. — The center of the poem and the crowning
expression of Browning's insight into human life in Caponsacchi,
Pompilia and The Pope. These books reserved for further discussion.
Not content with studying the general reactions of public opinion,
Browning considers further the process the world sanctions to extract
truth from facts and circumstances. Thus the speeches of the two
hired counsellors whose business it is to find one side of the story true.
Effect of this attitude on their ability to see the truth. Browning's
scathing arraignment of the process of law. His view that the lawyer,
paid to see the truth all on one side, is biased beforehand so that there
is no hope of his seeing into the heart of such a human tragedy as fur-
nishes the theme of the poem. Measure of justice in Browning's
attitude. Compare the views of great lawyers such as Lincoln.
Thus the defender of Guido: garrulous, conceited, pompous, aiming
to present a brilliant classical argument in defense of Guido and thus
conquer his legal adversary. The one touch of humanity in him his
love of his boy.
So the opposing counsel: Pompilia's defender seeking through the
finesse of argumentation to work upon the judges. His utter failure
to appreciate Pompilia and Caponsacchi; compare what he is willing
to concede regarding them ! Something terrible in this machine process
of law which, after all, merely interprets and carries further the reac-
tion of the two halves of Rome.
Conclusion. — Thus the relation of the different types and individuals
to the truth; but behind them all Browning. His moral reality, his
experience, his contact with human life as his equipment for inter-
preting the human story. The full exemplification of his own
philosophy of art in the poem.
TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION.
1. Compare in poetic method Pippa Passes and The Ring and the
Book: which method is the more effective?
2. Compare in artistic and philosophic value Paracelsus and The
Ring and the Book.
3. Browning's theory of art.
4. Browning's view of the sources of insight into the truth of human
5. Could any of the books of The Ring and the Book be omitted
or much shortened without seriously hampering Browning's
6. Is Guido a possible character?
7. Compare Guido with Goethe's Mephistopheles and Shakespeare's
8. Compare the measure of insight into human life in the Tertium
Quid and the two halves of Rome.
9. Is Browning's view of the legal counsellors and the process of
10. Compare in artistic and philosophic value The Ring and the
Book and the brief poems studied.
11. How far does Browning fulfil his own theory of art in The Ring
and the Book?
Browning, **The Ring and the Book, books I-V, VIII, IX, XI,
XII; **Essay on Shelley. Alexander, Introduction to Browning,
chapter IV. Brooke, Poetry of Browning, chapter XVI, pp. 391-413.
Dorchester, ^Browning's Philosophy of Art, Boston Browning Society
Papers, pp. 99-117. Dowden, *Robert Browning, chapter XII. John-
son, Conscience and Art in Browning. Scudder, The Life of the Spirit
in the Modern English Poets, chapter V. Thomson, Biographical and
Critical Studies, pp. 458-477. West, *One Aspect of Browning's
VII. THE CROWNING REVELATION OF MAN-
"And surely not so very much apart
Need I place thee, my warrior-priest, — in whom
What if I gain the other rose, the gold,
We grave to imitate God's miracle.
Be glad thou hast let light into the world
Through that irregular breach o' the boundary, — see
The same upon thy path and march assured,
Learning anew the use of soldiership,
Self-abnegation, freedom from all fear,
Loyalty to the life's end! Ruminate,
Deserve the initiatory spasm, — once more
Work, be unhappy but bear life, my son!"
— The Pope's estimate of Caponsacchi, The Ring and the Book, vol. II,
Introduction. — The preparation for Caponsacchi. Culmination of
the poem in the monologues by him and by Pompilia. Caponsacchi 's
the most perfectly dramatic of all the monologues of the poem. Com-
pare how Browning shows greatest dramatic truth in portraying a
character like himself. Contrast Shakespeare's ability to paint with
equal truth a Desdemona, an Othello and an Iago.
Situation at the opening of Caponsacchi 's monologue: Pompilia
in the hospital dying of the stabs inflicted by her husband: Caponsacchi,
who sought to save her, recalled by the judges who had sentenced
him for his attempt, and asked to tell once more the story by the
light of the terrible event. His whole nature quivering under the
tragedy. How his splendid manhood shines forth in the broken
utterances but majestic spirit in which he begins his statement.
The relation of Caponsacchi to the truth. — Of all the characters of
the poem, Caponsacchi nearest the heart of the truth, with the one
exception of Pompilia. The cause of this the truth of his spirit. Thus
the many expressions of his relation to the truth. Compare (lines
116-127) his sense that the truth is now evident, but too late to save
Pompilia! His perception (lines 140-143) that one great lesson of
life is recognizing our own failure. His desire to show the judges the
truth, that is, "Pompilia who is true," that they may appreciate her
nobility and the truth thus be helpful to human beings in new cases
that arise (lines 146-172).
Caponsacchi's meaning in saying Pompilia has done the good to
him. Significance that he can say it in the presence of the terrible
tragedy. How through Pompilia Caponsacchi was born into love
and truth. Thus the marvel of personal life. Love and truth as the
two absolute ends of the human spirit. Caponsacchi's hunger to
serve Pompilia in the one poor way remaining to him: the telling once
more of the story that her truth may appear.
The story of Caponsacchi's life. — How Caponsacchi came to be a
priest; his vows discounted before taken. His careless life before
Pompilia touched him and his soul wakened — the mere butterfly
sipping the honey of every garden-flower. Caponsacchi before his
great experience as a perfect type of the Tertium Quid.
His first sight of Pompilia. How immediately each soul recognized
the other. Browning's success in making Pompilia stand out vividly
before our eyes through the few lines of Caponsacchi's description.
Contrast the vagueness of Michal in Paracelsus.
The reaching out of Caponsacchi's soul to help Pompilia; significance
of this attitude. Guido's malicious scheme to trap both wife and
priest in a ruin that would glut his hate. Opposite result because
of the truth of those he would make his victims.
Pompilia's appeal. — Pompilia's first call to Caponsacchi to save her
life for the sake of the life God had trusted to her. How each instantly
recognized the other's truth and thus pierced at once through Guido's
miserable cheat. How love means such a recognition of one personality
Caponsacchi's answer. — The strange first effect of Pompilia's appeal
upon Caponsacchi: his awakening to the majestic laws underlying
all life and hence his life. Thus turned back upon the vows and duties
he had been ignoring, but which take on new sacredness through the
birth of his soul. Truth of this to human character, and remarkable
evidence of Browning's grasp of the deepest things of human life.
Compare Miriam and Donatcllo in The Marble Faun.
The second appeal. — Caponsacchi's horizon clearing; his recognition
that the true service of God was the answering of the individual woman's
need. The splendid directness with which he performs the service.
The ride to Rome. — Utter reverence of Gaponsacchi toward Pompilia
through all the long ride together for the sake of her safety. The
source of his reverence: can love be religion?
Caponsacchi's feeling that the whole world must be transformed
by the great experience that has come to him. Thus strange to him
that others should go on about the same old routine of life. The value of
a great experience in thus helping us to break through the heavy crust
of convention and custom into the light and air and to a fresh testing
of all things by the immediate standards of the soul. How all Brown-
ing's greatest work rests upon such a testing of life through his own
The situation when Guido overtakes Pompilia and Caponsacchi.
How it appears to the world; the truth in Browning's view.
The court's previous judgment. How completely the several judges
failed to see the true meaning of the situation because of their character
as human beings. Caponsacchi 's summing up of the whole story
for the judges that they may see the truth.
Caponsacchi's attitude toward Guido. Is he right in regretting
that he did not kill Guido? Terrible power in the lines in which he
compares Guido to Judas (lines 1858-1925).
Caponsacchi and Pompilia. — Caponsacchi's statement that when
he and Pompilia rushed each on each, the spark of truth was struck
out from their souls (lines 1785-1787); and that he "assuredly did
bow, was blessed by the revelation of Pompilia" (lines 1833-1841).
Significance of his insistence upon the supreme service she has done
him. The power of the deepest personal experiences to develop wis-
dom and insight in comparison with the other channels through which
deep lessons may be learned.
Caponsacchi's different uses of the word "love." His repudiation
of any ordinary use of the word in describing his relation to Pompilia.
Absence in his attitude toward her of all selfish demand to be answered
and satisfied. But hunger to serve her evermore, to lift up and pro-
tect and bless her. Deep, reverent, tender reaching out of his spirit
toward her. Did Caponsacchi love Pompilia? The plane upon which
the word must be used if we answer affirmatively.
Caponsacchi's description of her face: how wonderfully Browning
has grown since portraying Michal and Palma. Sources of his power
The dream of what might have been but never can be! How Capon-
sacchi rises, and with what frankness he can tell his dream of what
life would be with her, because of the purity of his attitude and —
because she lies dying! The moving power of the poetry : was Brown-
ing dreaming over his own supreme loss?
Caponsacchi's closing view of life. — The way life withdraws, and the
perspective of the spirit in which it appears, through the effect of the
great tragedy. Caponsacchi's unwavering recognition that God's
sun shines, even though his own life be utterly in the shadow. Signifi-
cance that he can accept with such splendid heroism in the face of all
that has come to him. Source of his power to keep the truth of life.
Browning's view that it is more important to love than to be loved.
The relative effect of the two modes of love upon the human character.
Compare the expression of the same truth in The Last Ride Together,
in Evelyn Hope, in Browning's own experience. This the heart of all
Browning's philosophy of personal life. Thus the significance of that
Conclusion. — What lies ahead for Caponsacchi? Compare the
souls in Dante's second limbo who "without hope, live on in desire."
Extent to which the description applies to Caponsacchi. Has he
bought the spiritual vision by the loss of certain capacities of his own
life? Must it be so purchased?
The splendid heroism and majestic manhood with which the book
closes. Is there in all literature a greater portrayal of manhood at
once human and spiritual, masculine and transfigured, supremely
loving but utterly without selfish demands?
The value of Caponsacchi and his heroic attitude toward life for
our own faith and experience.
TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION.
1. The measure of dramatic truth in Browning's portrayal of
2. Compare Caponsacchi and Paracelsus.
3. Browning's view of personal love.
4. The significance of the effect upon Caponsacchi of Pompilia's
first appeal to him.
5. In what ways did Pompilia help Caponsacchi?
6. Compare Caponsacchi's relation to Pompilia with Dante's to
Beatrice in the Vita Nuova.
7. What is the relative value of great personal experience as com-
pared with other channels through which wisdom may be
8. Compare Caponsacchi and Valence in Colombe's Birthday.
9. Contrast Caponsacchi and the speaker in Fijinc at the Fair.
10. Compare Caponsacchi anil the men characters of The Inn Album,
11. The relation of Caponsacchi to the truth.
12. What makes it possible for Caponsacchi to accept life heroically
in spite of the tragedy?
13. What possible future could there be for Caponsacchi at the
conclusion of his part in the tragedy?
Compare the situation of Caponsacchi with that of the souls in
the second limbo of Dante's Inferno.
Compare the view of personal love taken in The Ring and the
Book, and in The Last Ride Together, Evelyn Hope and Colombe's
16. Compare Caponsacchi and Shakespeare's heroes.
Browning, **The Ring and the Book, especially book VI, ^Capon-
sacchi; **The Last Ride Together; *Evelyn Hope; *Colombe's Birthday;
*Fifine at the Fair; *The Inn Album. Buchanan, Master Spirits,
pp. 89-109. Cooke, ^Browning's Theory of Romantic Love, Boston
Browning Society Papers, pp. 84-98. Innes, Seers and Singers, pp.
99-124. Jones, *The Uncalculating Soul, Boston Browning Society
Papers, pp. 130-152. Machen, The Bible in Browning. Morley,
Studies in Literature, pp. 255-285. Nettleship, Robert Browning,
pp. 9-45. Sharp, Victorian Poets, pp. 40-102.
VIE. BROWNING'S INTERPRETATION OF
" Earth's flower
She holds up to the softened gaze of God!"
— The Pope's estimate of Pompilia, The Ring and the Book, vol. II,
Introduction. — As Caponsacchi is Browning's highest interpreta-
tion of manhood, so Pompilia his most wonderful reading of the
woman soul. These two characters unique in literature: and the
books portraying them as the heart of the whole poem.
The relation of Browning's Pompilia to the character revealed in
the documents of the murder case. Browning's statement that he
found her substantially as he has portrayed her. If so, the more
wonder that life and not art could produce this miracle of transfigured
womanhood. Browning's art none the less wonderful in revealing
her to us than if she were entirely the creation of his own imagination.
Of all the characters of the story, Pompilia most of all burning up into
the pure, white light of truth, because of them all she is most utterly
Artistic qualities of book VII. — Browning's portrayal of Pompilia
less perfectly true dramatically than his Caponsacchi. Words and
images occasionally used by Pompilia not entirely in keeping with
her experience and knowledge. Compare Shakespeare's lifting a
character to a plane of more complete expression with Browning's
tendency to make his characters at times speak his own language as
well as thoughts. What this indicates of Browning's dramatic power.
Yet substantial truth to her character in Pompilia's dramatic mono-
logue. How Browning makes her live for us. Contrast the dramatic
power here and in the portrayal of Michal in Paracelsus and Palma in
Sordello. Exquisite character of the verse and imagery in the most
moving portions of Pompilia's monologue.
Situation in book VII. — Pompilia, mortally wounded by her husband,
dying in the hospital; but before going gathers her strength together
and tells over the story of her life and fate, that the truth (chiefly for
Caponsacchi's sake) may appear.
The perspective that the dying hour brings: how the coarser realities
of life seem to fade away for Pompilia, and only the spiritual meaning
underneath to stand out clearly. Thus her sufferings seem far away
and dream-like to her, while the two great strongholds of her faith
in life — her child and Caponsacchi — stand forth unshadowed by the
gloom of the past.
Pompilia's story. — Pompilia's review of her life, first outlining the
brief whole and then going over in detail the salient points. Her
mother. Violante's deception. Pompilia's innocent girlhood. How
she grew up as it were a white lily sprung from a dung-heap. Her
relation to her foster-parents. The pathetic story of her marriage:
Pompilia's ignorance as well as utter innocence.
Pompilia's relation to the truth. — The view of life to which Pompilia
has come. Her perception of the good alone as permanent. The
dying hour acting upon her spiritual vision like Dante's Lethe and
Eunoe upon his view of life. Pompilia's perfect trust: is it justified?
How she exemplifies the truth, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they
shall see God." Her insight and wisdom; these as dependent, not at
all upon ordinary knowledge, but upon her character, her sufferings
and her great personal experiences. How true her reaction upon every
test of her experience.
Browning's view of personal life. — The opportunity in portraying
Pompilia for an expression, by indirection, of Browning's view of the
most intimate relations of human life. Difficulty in discussing these;
purity and nobility of Browning's attitude; perhaps nowhere else is
his contribution so important. His teaching that the body is the
garment of the soul, that every outer expression is significant only
as it embodies something deeper than itself. Thus the love that is a
consecration of the spirit as what makes sacred and beautiful all rela-
tions of the outer life. Hence Pompilia entirely right in her instinctive
reaction upon her relation to her husband. How any claim of "rights"
or "duties" must blemish the most wonderful relationship of human
life. The bases in character and experience of Browning's insight
into these problems.
Pompilia's motherhood. — The two attitudes toward her child possible
in such circumstances as Pompilia's: (1) Resentment of it as Guido's
child; (2) A more intense love of it that the inheritance of Guido's
hate might be utterly blotted out and the child be wholly wrapped
about with love. Evidence of Pompilia's heroic womanhood in her
rising to the noble attitude. Her splendid response to the call of the
life deeper than her life. How Pompilia rises at the point where
Goethe's Margaret goes down.
The significance of Browning's interpretation of womanhood. How
can a man see into a woman's soul as he reads Pompilia's? Sources
of his power. The value of his teaching concerning motherhood.
Pompilia and Caponsacchi. — How Pompilia hungers to serve Capon-
sacchi, as he her. Thus her desire to make the truth — his truth —
appear. Her story of her first sight of him. The frankness with
which she expresses how her spirit immediately went out to him.
Her feeling like his in the experience, but her expression even more
frank and transparent. This as evidencing the higher purity of her
spirit and her innocence of the world. How Caponsacchi's years of
careless living and his knowledge of the world's inevitable reaction
would make him withhold and explain. The power to speak frankly
but delicately of the deepest things of human life as a test of the purity
of one's own character.
Pompilia's account of her call to Caponsacchi and his coming. Her
instantaneous recognition of him. How love involves a discovery of
one life by another. The difference in Pompilia's telling of the story
from Caponsacchi's. Browning's skill in differentiating the two
monologues, with equally remarkable character-drawing in each. The
revelation in Pompilia of what is essentially and permanently woman-
hood. Her pride in Caponsacchi, in his strength, courage, resource-
fulness. Her cry:
"Oh, to have Caponsacchi for my guide!
Ever the face upturned to mine, the hand
Holding my hand across the world, — a sense
That reads, as only such can read, the mark
God sets on woman, signifying so
She should — shall peradventure — be divine;
Yet 'ware, the while, how weakness mars the print
And makes confusion, leaves the thing men see."
Pompilia's sense of how Caponsacchi has helped her. Her desire,
for his sake, that the service should be all successful. Her instinc-
tive recognition that she has the easier, Caponsacchi the harder, part.
Thus the closing portion of her monologue devoted wholly to him.
The marvelous poetry to which the book rises and with which it con-
cludes. Is there anywhere a more glorious song of what personal life
ought to be, and may be, when the outer life is the garment of the
inner, and love is a desire, not to take, but to bless evermore?
Pompilia's exultant acceptance of the death that frees her from
Guido. Absence of any spirit of hate toward him. Thus in entire
love and glad acceptance of life she goes out.
The final judgment: the Pope. — Except Browning's own view the
Pope as giving the final judgment of the story. The Pope's character —
old, good, long-experienced in men and books alike. How he prepares
for passing judgment on Guido and his fellow-murderers by reading a
history, thus gaining a spiritual perspective. His summing up of
each of the three principal characters. His decision.
The Pope's relation to the truth. His the wide, balanced vision
of life in relation, due to a good character crowned by learning and
widely experienced in men and events. Thus his the judgment nearest
God's. Yet even he, Browning thinks, does not burn up into the white
soul of the truth like Pompilia or touch the heart of the concrete mean-
ing of life like Caponsacchi.
The poet and the poem. — Behind all the characters of The Ring
and the Book, Browning. His equipment to get at the truth: compare
in character and temperament, in experience, in study and art. Brown-
ing's personal life as the basis of his portrayal of Caponsacchi and
Pompilia; the light this fact throws on the meaning of personal life.
TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION.
1. The measure of dramatic truth in Pompilia's monologue.
2. Compare the character-drawing in The Ring and the Book and
3. Pompilia's relation to the truth.
4. Compare Pompilia's insight with the Pope's wisdom.
5. Why is Pompilia even more frank than Caponsacchi in telling
the story of their relation to each other?
6. Compare Pompilia and Michal in Paracelsus.
7. Compare Pompilia and Colombe in Colombe's Birthday.
8. In what respects does Browning excel in his portrayal of woman-
9. What are the sources of Browning's insight into womanhood?
10. Compare Pompilia and Dante's Beatrice.
11. Compare Pompilia and Goethe's Margaret.
12. Browning's view of marriage.
13. Browning's interpretation of motherhood.
14. Compare Pompilia with Shakespeare's heroines.
Browning, **Thc Ring and the Book, especially book VII, **Pompilia,
and book X, *The Pope; **One Word More; *By the Fireside; *At the
Mermaid; *House; *Shop; *Pisgah-Sighis; *Numpholeptos; *A Forgive-
ness; *Epilogue to Pacchiarotto; *Reverie. Brooke, *Poetry of Robert
Browning, chapters XIII, XIV. Bury, Browning's Philosophy. Ches-
terton, * Robert Browning. Dawson, Makers of Modern English,
chapters XXX, XXXI. Dowden, Studies in Literature, pp. 191-239.
Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism, volume VII, pp. 677-720.
Preston, Robert and Elizabeth Browning. Ritchie, Records of Tennyson,
Ruskin and Browning, pp. 197-311.
SUGGESTIONS TO STUDENTS.
Browning is distinctly a poet to be studied rather than merely read.
While much of his poetry can be enjoyed at a single reading, hard
work is necessary to give one a full grasp of his message and apprecia-
tion of his art. Moreover, his best work has at least one mark that
classes it with the masterpieces of world literature — the quality of
being inexhaustible, rewarding repeated study with ever deeper truth
Thus students should read over and over the poems to be discussed
in this course until every line is familiar. Next in value to these texts
are Browning's other works, especially those recommended in the
references following each lecture outline. Constant comparison should
be made between one poem and another with the aim of appreciating
the essential characteristics of Browning's art and the great ideas to
which he most frequently returns.
Next in value to Browning's own work are those collections of in-
formation assumed by Browning in his poems, and hence necessary
to the intelligent reading of them. Of these, Berdoe's Browning
Cyclopcedia is perhaps the most useful; Cooke's Browning Guide-Book
and the notes to the Camberwell and new Riverside editions are also
Biographies of Browning (such as, Mrs. Orr's, Dowden's, Herford's,
Sharp's, Chesterton's, and the Browning Letters) come next in value.
While Browning was opposed to the poet's wearing his heart upon his
sleeve and resented the biographer's intrusion into the intimacies
of the artist's life, nevertheless Browning's greatest work would have
been impossible except for the deeps of his personal experience, and
his philosophy becomes doubly illuminating when seen in relation to
his own character and development.
Criticism, even when appreciative, should be given a distinctly
subordinate place and used mainly to stimulate the student's thinking
after his own view of Browning's poetry and philosophy has been
Above all, thinking is more important than much reading. All
great art is an illumination and interpretation of human life; thus
one's own life is in turn the key to the understanding of the work of
art. All the great experiences of human life are in some form in the
past of the humblest of us; thus each has within himself the material
for the understanding of the deepest poetry. There is plenty of lum-
ber in anyone's attic; what people need, as Emerson put it, is "a
lamp to ransack their attics withal." There is plenty of experience
in your past life, what you need is the light of thought to interpret
it. The lamp is hard to light, and only constant care and effort will
keep it burning, but nothing can take its place.
An effort to work out, in advance of the lecture, as many as possible
of the topics following the lecture outline will help; and expression
of one's thinking in a note book, to oneself, or with a group of fellow-
students, will do much to clarify thought. A nebulous idea becomes
a clear conception only through expression; thus the effort to formu-
late thought is the greatest discipline to thinking.
Books starred are of special value in connection with this course; those double-
starred are texts for study and discussion, or are otherwise of first importance.
Browning, **Works, Camberwell edition, 12 volumes, with introduc-
tions and notes by Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke. T. Y.
Crowell & Co., New York, 1898.
This edition is in convenient form and is well annotated.
The new Riverside edition in 6 volumes, Houghton, Mifflin & Co.,
Boston, 1899, contains introductions and notes embodying the
excellent material from Cooke's Browning Guide-Book. The
Cambridge edition, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1895, is an
admirable edition of all Browning's works in one volume, but the
type is necessarily small. The edition in 2 volumes, by Augustine
Birrell, The Macmillan Co., New York, 1896, is excellent and the
type is a little more easy to read than in the Cambridge edition.
Numerous volumes of selections from Browning are currently
published, among the most satisfactory of which are those by
Smith, Elder & Co., London, and D. Appleton & Co., New York.
Browning, R. and E. B., *Letter8, 2 vols., pp. 574 and 571. Harper
& Bros., Now York, L899.
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, ^Letters, edited by Frederic G. Kenyon.
2 vols., pp. xiv + 478 and vi + 464. The Macmillan Co., New
Bibliography of Robert Browning by F. J. Furnivall. In London Brown-
ing Society's Papers, part i, pp. 21-115; part ii, pp. 117-170,
Triibner & Co., London, 1881 and 1883.
See also Materials for a Bibliography of Robert Browning. In
Nicoll and Wise, Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century ,
vol. 1, pp. 361-627. Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1895.
Alexander, William John, An Introduction to the Poetry of Robert Brown-
ing. Pp. iv + 212. Ginn & Co., Boston, 1889.
Beale, Dorothea, The Religious Teaching of Browning. In London
Browning Society's Papers, part iii, pp. 323-338. Triibner & Co.,
London, 1882. Also reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies,
Berdoe, Edward, Browning and the Christian Faith. Pp. xx + 231.
The Macmillan Co., New York, 1896.
Berdoe, Edward, **The Browning Cyclopaedia. Pp. xviii + 576. The
Macmillan Co., New York, 1902.
Berdoe, Edward, Browning's Message to His Time. Pp. 222. Swan
Sonnenschein & Co., London, 1890.
Berdoe, Edward (editor), *Browning Studies, being Select Papers by
Members of the London Browning Society. Pp. xii + 331. George
Allen, London, 1895.
Berdoe, Edward, A Primer of Browning. Pp. vi + 124. E. P. Dutton
& Co., New York, 1904.
Birrell, Augustine, Obiter Dicta, Series I, pp. 55-95, On the Alleged
Obscurity of Mr. Browning's Poetry. Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York, 1893.
Bolton, Sarah K., Famous English Authors of the Nineteenth Century,
pp. 389-451, Robert Browning. T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York,
* Boston Browning Society Papers (The), Selected to Represent the
Work of the Society from 1886 to 1897. Pp. viii + 503. The
Macmillan Co., New York, 1897.
Some excellent papers, falling into several connected series.
Bradford, Amory H., Spiritual Lessons from the Brownings. Pp. 38.
T. Y. CroweU & Co., New York, 1900.
Bronson, Katherine C, Browning in A solo. In Century Magazine,
vol. 59, pp. 920-931. April, 1900.
Bronson, Katharine DeKay, Browning in Venice. In Century Magazine,
vol. 63, pp. 572-584. February, 1902.
Brooke, Stopford A., *The Poetry of Robert Browning. Pp. iv + 447.
T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 1902.
An admirable, well-balanced study. Perhaps the best general
criticism of Browning yet published.
Buchanan, Robert, Master Spirits, pp. 89-109, The Ring and the
Book: Browning's Masterpiece. Henry S. King & Co., London,
Buck, J. D., Browning's Paracelsus and Other Essays, pp. 13-60, Brown-
ing's Paracelsus. The Robert Clarke Co., Cincinnati, O., 1897.
Bulkeley, H. J., The Reasonable Rhythm of Some of Browning's Poems.
In London Browning Society's Papers, part viii, pp. 119-131.
Triibner & Co., London, 1886.
Burton, Richard, Literary Likings, pp. 150-171, Renaissance Pictures
in Browning's Poetry. Copeland & Day, Boston, 1898.
)/Bury, John, Browning's Philosophy. In London Browning Society's
Papers, part iii, pp. 259-277. Turbner & Co., London, 1882.
Also reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies, pp. 28-46.
Carpenter, W. Boyd, The Religious Spirit in the Poets, pp. 202-247,
Browning. T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 1901.
Cary, Elizabeth Luther, Browning; Poet and Man. Pp. ix + 282.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1899.
A compilation with excellent illustrations.
Chesterton, G. K., * Robert Browning. Pp. v + 207. The Macmillan
Co., New York, 1903.
An excellent book, strongly original and freshly stimulating.
The love of rather brilliant paradoxes is its chief fault. At times,
too, the author seems almost flippant; yet the real spirit of the
book is earnest and deeply appreciative of Browning.
Clark, J. Scott, A Study of English and American Poets, A Laboratory
Method, pp. 658-713, Robert Browning. Charles Scribner's
Sons, New York, 1900.
Cooke, George Willis, *A Guide-Book to the Poetic and Dramatic Works
of Robert Browning. Pp. xvi + 451. Houghton, Mifflin & Co..
Cooke, George Willis, Poets and Problems, pp. 269-388, Browning.
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1893.
Corson, Hiram, *An Introduction to the Study of Robert Browning's
Poetry. Pp. x + 367. D. C. Heath & Co., Boston, 1889.
Curtis, George William, From the Easy Chair, pp. 197-208, Robert
Browning in Florence. Harper & Bros., New York, 1S92.
Dawson, W. J., The Makers of Modern English, pp. 270-327, Browning.
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1890.
Dowden, Edward, *Boberi Browning. Pp. xvi 4- 404. E. P. Dutton
& Co., New York, 1904.
Dowden, Edward, Studies in Literature, 1789-1877, pp. 191-239, Mr.
Tennyson and Mr. Browning. Kegan Paul, Trench, Triibner
& Co., London, 1899.
Fleming, Albert, Andrea del Sarto. In London Browning Society's
Papers, part viii, pp. 95-102. Triibner & Co., London, 1886.
Fotheringham, J., Studies of the Mind and Art of Robert Browning.
Pp. xxviii + 576. Horace Marshall & Son, London, 1898.
Gosse, E., Robert Browning; Personalia. Pp. 96. Houghton, Mifflin
& Co., Boston, 1890.
Grant, Percy Stickney, Browning's Art in Monologue. In Boston
Browning Society Papers, pp. 35-66.
Herford, Charles H., Robert Browning. Pp. xi -t- 309. Dodd, Mead
& Co., New York, 1905.
Hubbard, Elbert, Little Journeys to the Homes of English Authors, vol.
vi, no. 2, pp. 25-50, Robert Browning. The Roycrofters, East
Aurora, N. Y., Feb. 1900.
Hutton, Richard Holt, Literary Essays, pp. 188-243, Mr. Browning.
The Macmillan Co., New York, 1888.
Hyde, W. De Witt, The Art of Optimism as Taught by Robert Browning.
Pp. 35. T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 1900.
Innes, A. D., Seers and Singers. Pp. 223. A. D. Innes & Co., London,
Johnson, E., Conscience and Art in Browning. In London Browning
Society's Papers, part iii, pp. 345-380. Triibner & Co., London,
Jones, Henry, Browning as a Philosophical and Religious Teacher.
Pp. xvi + 349. The Macmillan Co., New York, 1899.
Little, Marion, Essays on Robert Browning. Pp. 204. Swan Sonnen-
schein & Co., London, 1899.
London Browning Society's Papers. Published by Triibner & Co., 1881-
A mine of interesting material. Only the most important
papers are listed here.
Mabie, Hamilton Wright, Essays in Literary Interpretation, pp. 99-137,
Browning. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 1892.
Machen, Minnie Gresham, The Bible in Browning; with Particular
Reference to The Ring and the Book. Pp. 290. The Macmillan
Co., New York, 1903.
Mazzini, Joseph, Life and Writings, vol. 14, pp. 1-55, *The Philosophy
of Music. Smith, Elder & Co., London, 1891.
Mellone, Sydney Herbert, Leaders of Religious Thought in the Nineteenth
Century. Pp. viii + 302. Wm. Blackwood & Sons, London, 1902.
Molineux, Marie Ada, A Phrase Book from the Poetic and Dramatic
Works of Robert Browning. Pp. xiii + 520. Houghton, Mifflin
& Co., Boston, 1896.
References to the Riverside and Cambridge editions.
Morley, John, Studies in Literature. Pp. 347. The Macmillan Co.,
New York, 1897.
Moulton, Charles Wells (editor), *The Library of Literary Criticism
of English and American Authors, vol. 7, pp. 677-720, Robert
Browning. Moulton Publishing Co., Buffalo, 1904.
Nettleship, John T., Robert Browning; Essays and Thoughts. Pp.
xii + 454. Elkin Mathews, London, 1890.
Ormerod, Helen J., Abt Vogler, The Man. In London Browning Society's
Papers, part x, pp. 221-236. Trtibner & Co., London, 1889.
Ormerod, Helen J., Andrea del Sarto and Abt Vogler. In London Brown-
ing Society's Papers, part xi, pp. 297-311. Triibner & Co., Lon-
don, 1890. Also reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies, pp. 151-165.
Ormerod, Helen J., Some Notes on Browning's Poems Referring to
Music. In London Browning Society's Papers, part ix, pp. 180-
195. Triibner & Co., London, 1888. Also reprinted in Berdoe,
Browning Studies, pp. 237-252.
Orr, Mrs. S., *A Handbook to the Works of Robert Browning. Pp.
xv + 420. George Bell & Sons, New York, 1892.
Orr, Mrs. S., *Life and Letters of Robert Browning. 2 vols., pp. xii and
ix + 646. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., New York, 1892.
Pigou, Arthur Cecil, Robert Browning as a Religious Teacher. Pp.
xii + 132. The Macmillan Co., New York, 1901.
Porter, Charlotte, and Clarke, Helen A., Browning Study Programmes.
2 vols., pp. xxiv + 631. To accompany the Camberwell Browning.
T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 1900.
Porter, Charlotte, and Clarke, Helen A. (editors), Poet-Lore. 1889-.
This magazine has from its commencement devoted a large part
of its pages to Browning. The volumes should be consulted for
valuable articles and notes.
Preston, Harriet Waters, Robert and Elizabeth Browning. In Atlantic
Monthly, vol. 83, pp. 802-826. June, 1899.
Ritchie, Anne Isabella Thackeray, Records of Tennyson, Ruskin and
Browning, pp. 197-311, Robert and Elizabeth Browning. The
Macmillan Co., New York, 1893.
Scudder, Vida D., The Life of the Spirit in the Modern English Poets.
Pp. v + 349. See especially chapter V, pp. 201-238, ♦Brown-
ing as a Humorist. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1895.
Sharp, Amy, Victorian Poets. Pp. xx + 207. Methuen & Co., London,
Sharp, William, Life of Robert Browning. Pp. 219 + xxii. Walter
Scott, London, 1890.
Stedman, Edmund Clarence, Victorian Poets. Pp. xxiv + 521. Hough-
ton, Mifflin &. Co., Boston, 1893.
Strong, Augustus Hopkins, The Great Poets and Their Theology, pp.
373-447, Browning. American Baptist Publication Society,
Symons, Arthur, An Introduction to the Study of Browning. Pp. vi + 221.
Cassell & Co., London, 1897.
Thomson, James, Biographical and Critical Studies, pp. 437-483,
Browning. Reeves & Turner, London, 1896.
Turnbull, Mrs., Abt Vogler. In London Browning Society's Papers,
part iv, pp. 469-476. Trubner & Co., London, 1883. Also
reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies, pp. 143-150.
Vasari, Giorgio, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects. 6 vols.
Vol. 3, pp. 180-236, Andrea del Sarto. George Bell & Sons, New
Walker, Hugh, The Greater Victorian Poets. Pp. 332. The Macmillan
Co., New York, 1895.
Waugh, Arthur, Robert Browning. Pp. xiv + 155. Small, Maynard
& Co., Boston, 1900.
West, Miss E. D., One Aspect of Browning's Villains. In London Brown-
ing Society's Papers, part iv, pp. 411-434. Trubner & Co., Lon-
don, 1883. Also reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies, pp.
Whitman, Sarah W., Robert Browning in His Relation to the Art of
Painting. Pp. 22. Browning Society, Boston, 1889.
Wilson, F. Mary, A Primer on Browning. Pp. viii + 248. The Mac-
millan Co., New York, 1891.
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